Monday, May 25, 2015

With (H)all Gratitude

(Ed. note: This is a rerun of a previous column; one that is still relevant today.)

To all our sons and daughters in the military today,

whether retired or active:

From all of us at
Penguin Hall- Thank you.

(And lest we forget-)
to all our four legged friends
who have served as well:

Thanks and a head scritch to you, too!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Back By Popular Demand

(Editor's note:  This article ran back in December 2012, but there have been so many requests for it the editors have decided to give in /take a holiday, and run it again.)

Back in the days of little boys in short pants and little girls in crinolines, Mrs. Hall remembers many a Christmas eve spent propped on a cushion and pushed up the big people's table, starring down a bowl of the inevitable first course to what seemed then like the Meal That Lasted At Least Two Days.
Forced to endure this annual ritual, it generally involved listening to a flock of elders drone on endlessly, then dawdle over stripping the table, washing every dish in the house and then sometime about oh, midnight or so, decide that perhaps we might just let the little ones open those pesky Christmas presents after all.  And the opening salvo to this supreme tantalus of an evening was always a steaming bowl of sauerkraut soup.

Some foods come naturally to a child, like ice cream and birthday cake. Others have to sidle up slowly to their little senses, and after much wooing and pleasant talk, eventually make nice with the infant's tastebuds and a new favorite is born.  The giant mushrooms floating atop the sauerkraut soup like grisly lilypads on a murky pond did not come to be on Mrs. Hall's list of Happy Anticipations by any of those routes; they were imposed, as things often were in those days, abruptly and absolutely by martial law.
Despite however, these rough beginnings, the glorious heady broth and winey aftertaste (if perhaps only by repetition) finally wore their way into her heart.  And yet another generation grew that could not imagine a Christmas eve going by without a family around the table, impatience and anticipation intertwined and the saying of Grace over an beloved bowl of sauerkraut soup.
Mrs. Hall's phone rang last week and it was Master Ian calling from Okinawa, Japan.  He was hoping Mrs. H. could wrap up a jar of her sauerkraut soup and ship it out to him for the holidays.  When asked about Christmas, Erick remarked last weekend that the one thing he was going to miss this year was having that wonderful soup at the beginning of the meal, and just Tuesday afternoon, as the Halls drove out to join family for dinner, Colleen texted Mrs. H. that she too was dining with friends, but it wasn't the same without the soup.  The circle will not be broken.

(Editor's Note: In case the Gentle Reader would like to inflict tradition on a brand new generation of innocents, the recipe for Sauerkraut Soup can be found here.)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Rap it up I'll take it

  It was yet another gameday and as they say, you can take the boy out of Syracuse, but you can't take the Syracuse out of the boy. Preparing to sequester herself against another onslaught of screaming audience static, Mrs. Hall had moved her laptop into the boardroom and was arranging her coffee and snacks, when her ears perked up. Wafting down the hall came a pulsing beat.  She followed it to the couch and looked over Mr. Hall's shoulder.
"What is that you're playing?" she asked.
"Well," he said, " I was reading the Syracuse Post Standard online and apparently there's a rap about Jim Boeheim, the SU men's basketball coach, and I was just listening to it.  I'll turn it off if it bothers you-.."
"No, no- that's not necessary."  She returned to her desk.  A quick search later, and the same beats could be heard coming from the boardroom.  Mr. Hall peered around the corner with a smile.
"It's catchy; I like it." she admitted, and played it three more times.
 "Great song- but those old shots of Boeheim in the 70s are a riot; did people actually dress like that then?"  "Probably," Mr. Hall muttered, and went back to his lair.  On the fourth time through though, Mr. Hall returned to the room.  "Look, " he started, "I'm as big a fan of the Orange as anyone, but-"   She apologized and turned down the sound.

But sometimes tunes have a funny way of staying around and as she noticed it becoming the de facto sound track for her afternoon, it occurred to her that maybe, just maybe, the artist that wrote that was on to something.  She shot out a tweet of support to King Vega on Twitter, and a hope that they play it at the Dome that evening.  Sure enough, reports come back via Twitter that it had indeed rocked the Dome that night.  Elated, Mrs. Hall shot out a few more missives to the Twittersphere.
The song seemed to be gaining some traction; they played it again a couple of times the next game and before she knew it, local media was picking up on it too.  CNY Central snagged an interview with Vega and so did local Channel 9WSYR.  Mrs. Hall smiled as she watched them.  Boeheim has huge magnetism in this town.  He's regarded as a god by most, and certainly revered as one in basketball circles, and although there's been a number of books written about him, for all his influence and attraction in Syracuse, there's never been an anthem produced.
 And here now, out of the blue, these fellows seemed to have not only nailed the local sentiment about their hometown icon, but married it to a great game beat as well.  The manager, Elisah Kimbrough, on top of that, was internet savvy.  Familiar with the power of social media, he was on top of the wave of enthusiasm online, and implored fans to request the song repeatedly at the Dome, where it was sure to gain greater recognition.
A chime popped up on Mrs. Hall's laptop.  It was a message on Twitter.  Her tweets had caught the attention of Mr. Kimbrough and he was thanking her for her support.  In the world of social media, a little link love goes a long ways.  She asked him for some more info about King Vega and he sent her his press kit and bio, and more good news:  a popular radio broadcast was interviewing them this very afternoon, and their hit was going to be available on iTunes by Tuesday.  The ball just keeps on rolling.
Editor's Note:  You can find King Vega's bio and picture here.  And while you're at it, stop in and give his Youtube video a few more hits; if he makes 15,000 views by the next Syracuse game, the Dome's going to have him perform live there.  Let's help a local fellow make good!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Through a Google Glass lightly

"But why is this all so important?" questioned Mr. Hall, for the gazillionth time that week.  Mrs. Hall sighed.  "It's like this.  Google wants to take over the world. And I, for one, welcome our Google overlords.  As such, I've been awarded  he opportunity to wear their newest example of supremacy.  Did you ever see the movie 'Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory'?  It's like getting the golden ticket to a tour of the neatest factory on earth."  Mr. Hall's eyes narrowed as he tried to determine if she was snowing him or not, but he decided, in the long run, it really didn't matter.  They were going to Google whether he understood it or not.
Mr. Hall was in rare form that morning.  The marine layer had drawn back from the shore a little more than usual so they had a fairly decent view of the miles of bumper to bumper traffic stretching well ahead of them on the way in, and after about 45 minutes of close combat, Mr. H. was about fit to be tied.
 His mood lifted however, when they passed through the giant binoculars that were the Google headquarters and were greeted by a bevy of smiling gracious youngsters.
"Would you like a coffee or a mimosa, perhaps?" inquired one of the delightful youngsters.  "Cookie?"  Mr. Hall relaxed a bit and ordered a cuppa joe, while Mrs. H. opted for the mimosa.
Their guide through the presentation showed them the different colors of glasses available, while all the while in the background, the barista working the concessions was grinding the coffee to make a perfectly fresh cup for Mr. Hall.  Their drinks arrived, Mrs. Hall chose the white frames and the presentation continued.

If an entire corporation could have conspired to put them more at ease, it couldn't have done any better than that morning visit. The playful settings and congenial nature of the culture worked its magic; by the time they were effortless snapping pictures with the new device, Mr. Hall was practically purring.
"Would you like a tour before you go?", the young lady inquired, and had barely finished the sentence before they nodded a vigorous yes. Notoriously secretive in its operations, Mrs. Hall jumped at the opportunity to check out its workings; but of course, the tour only included selected and relatively public areas. 
 As their decorators seemed to display a penchant for midcentury modern designers, Mrs. Hall turned every corner suppressing an urge to nonchalantly stuff one of the Charles Eames or Eero Aarnio chairs into her purse.  Mr. Hall, wise to her ways, had noticed her just reaching for one of the Frank Gehry stools in the courtyard and subtly discouraged her with a look.
"Well, this has been delightful, but it's time to toddle on," said Mr. H. taking her arm as he caught her eyeing the artwork in the lobby.  Thanks were garnered all around as they passed the valet parking, and the Halls flew back off into the desert and home with their new toy.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Welcome to the future

A low rumble in the distance increased to a roar.  The windows rattled, the glass on Mrs. Hall's artwork shook.  Mr. Hall casually picked up his cup as it bounced across the vibrating table.  Mrs. Hall checked out the front window as the sound of car alarms moved progressively down the street  She returned to the kitchen.
"The boys are out late this morning."
"Uh-huh." Mr. H. grunted into his cup. "Sounds like the B-1s again."  She poured him another round.  Early morning air shows out of Nellis AFB were becoming routine.  "Are you packed and ready?" he asked.
Weighing in with the status report, "The bags are by the back door and the cat has been provided with more than enough food and water." Mrs. Hall chomped at the bit.  "Let's blow this popstand!" The hanger doors flew open and the Halls were off.
For a brief week in February, Google had announced it was opening its testing of Google Glass (its avant-garde optical head mounted computer) to the public, and from a pool of individuals who had tweeted on Twitter or posted on Facebook the appropriate phrase along with a creative use or application, it chose a new fleet of guinea pigs.  Of these intrepid futurists, Mrs. Hall was one.  Undaunted by the fact that the Significance of This Earth Shattering Event had to be explained to him at least once a day, Mr. Hall jumped on the bandwagon eagerly, and preparations for the presentation and demonstration event being held in Los Angeles began at once.
The trip to LA is not an arduous one, but after a few hours of deserts and traffic even the most adventurous prefer a break, and Mr. Hall, having seen to arrangements in his usual perfection, eventually ushered Mrs. Hall into the bar at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills.
The vapor of a bartender fluttered by with a silver dish bearing a light nosh, and just as the clock struck that happy hour, a brace of martinis appeared before them, icy and cold.  "I thought it better if we spent the night in town first, and you arrived at your presentation meeting refreshed early in the morning."  Mrs. Hall could not have agreed more and toasted his excellent decision.
Savories aside, one of the nicest things one can find at a bar is charming company, and the bar's offerings that evening were all equally entertaining.  A serendipitous seating at the corner stools put them in close proximity of a lovely young lady who, well acquainted with the local beach scene, was only too happy to regale them with a list of places of interest to visit.  While they traded stories for the better part of an hour, she munched on some light fare, but declined when the Halls offered a stronger beverage.  "I'm really at work," she admitted, while leaning into them to keep a confidence. "I'm here as an assistant to the Princess of [country redacted for privacy's sake], and I'm waiting for her to ring up for me."  When asked how long she had been waiting, she replied, "Well, I've been here for five hours now.  I guess she's sleeping in late today."  Not long after she was called upstairs by her charge, the Hall's attention turned to some well-heeled gentlemen seated further away.  Their curiosity piqued by a lack of conversation and a round of martinis, they questioned the barkeep about some equipment next to the coolers.
 The bartender dutifully pulled out a tray of massive ice squares and a pair of tongs, and using a very heavy copper cylinder mould, produced a couple of perfectly spherical tennis ball sized ice cubes. No further need of explanation was necessary; they knew what needed to be done next.  A round of single malt was immediately ordered, and the ice balls put to the test.  "I always love coming here, " remarked Mrs. Hall, as they strolled back out into the sunlight,  "It's such a sensible establishment," and Mr. Hall could only concur.
Next episode: - Through a (Google) glass lightly- stay tuned!

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